Rebuilding Wills Casa Uno


The post fire process was painful emotionally and just an all around pain in the rear dealing with paperwork, insurance claims, and rebuilding. We had Allstate for our home owners insurance. Initially they said the back room just needed to be “cleaned and sealed” by a specialist. I was livid about that. The responsibility of an insurance company is to restore the property to the condition it was before the catastrophe whether it be fire, flood, or vandalism.

In my humble opinion cleaning and sealing that room and bathroom would not be restoring it to a comparable pre fire condition. I knew this was not our forever home (not even in our 5 year plan home), so I wanted to make sure all the restoration wouldn’t hinder the future sale of the property. There was a few thousand dollars difference between what the Allstate adjuster deemed as our allotment to rebuild and what our contractor said it would cost. The adjuster and the contractor were able to work out an acceptable number, and we moved forward.


It was a complete gut job. All the drywall, insulation, tub, toilets, flooring came out. There was no damage to the framing, the roof, or the exterior of the home. Luckily all of that could stay. (Remember it was smoke damage instead of an open flame, so it could have been worse.) We could have moved walls, but the layout was a perfect use of 994 square feet for us.


With the walls, insulation, and carpet all gone, the smell of smoke was not as terrible obviously. As an added precaution, I had them spray Kilz to cover the odor. It probably wasn’t necessary, but I didn’t want any chance there would be a lingering smoke smell after the new drywall was up.


From there it was just insulation and drywall. Typical new build stuff. Construction started mid to end of October 2005 and was completed the end of December 2005. This gave us unrealistic expectations about how quickly remodeling/building happens.


Nick’s mom worked at Pulte Homes, so we paid cost for our appliances, countertops, and tile. We were able to get stainless steel appliances and Corian countertop for just a little bit more. Obviously we didn’t want to go too high end because it was a 2 bedroom house and no matter what, you can only demand so much money for what it is. Spending on granite or marble in this house would have been a total waste. Corian at cost was perfect for this house and our budget. The upgrades definitely made selling quick and for a profit in 2008 in a down market pretty easy, so they were worth it.


Since our dining table was iron and glass, we were able to clean it up and use it again. We got the HENRIKSDAL chairs from IKEA to pair with it. Don’t judge the decor too harshly it was 2005, and we were 20.


Besides the bathrooms and kitchen, we had laminate wood flooring from Lumber Liquidators installed. It was not super high quality, but it was a good choice for us and at a great price for the house.

All of our living room furniture came from Pottery Barn. I worked at Williams Sonoma, so I took advantage of my employee discount. We were definitely in the catalogue decorating phase. I feel like that was everyone in 2005. You wanted your house to look like a Pottery Barn catalogue. Mission accomplished. We still have the sectional, chair, rug, and media stand (although we are selling that…locals? anyone? anyone?).

With this layout our small living room could sit 10 comfortably. Plus the dining table was right there open to the living room. For such a small house it was a decent set up for entertaining. We should have thrown more parties instead of binge watch LOST, Six Feet Under, and Scrubs. (I’m not even kidding that’s what we did even back then.)


Our bedroom also straight up Pottery Barn. We still have the bed and lamps that haven’t been used since we took them from the first house in 2008. Confession this is probably the only time our bed was made and looked this way. I’m not a bed maker and can’t seem to keep duvet covers on.


Our 2nd bedroom functioned as an office/junk room. Seriously. We did order a sleeper sofa from Pottery Barn, but it wouldn’t fit through the narrow doorway. We never set this bedroom up as a guest room, but we did use the shower connected to the room. I know it was weird to walk across the house when there was another bathroom right outside our bedroom door, but that’s what we did. The rooms were the same size, but the one we used as the master had a bay window so it felt bigger.

The crazier thing here is we have a fully stocked bookshelf after losing all our books in the fire a few months before. Print was not dead at Wills Casa Uno or is it Una. I just realized I might be making more Spanish grammatical errors.


We even had them paint the exterior while they were at it! The lighter color was much better than the brown that it was originally. Such a cute little house.

Our insurance covered the house (structure), the contents (our stuff), and living expenses (costs that we incurred while we were displaced i.e. lodging and food). I had to deal with 3 separate people and submit paperwork to them. So. Much. Paperwork. Instead of renting an apartment while they rebuilt, we decided to stay in a hotel – the same hotel we checked into the day of the fire. We could be reimbursed up to a certain amount per day for food if we stayed at the hotel over renting an apartment. Obviously that was worth it to us. Plus we were out of the house for less than 3 months.

For our contents I had to list out all our possessions, what they cost, and how long we had them. Insurance companies depreciate your things, so you only get a portion of what you paid for it. You can submit additional forms to recoup the depreciation if you purchase the same item to replace the one lost. We just maxed out (or nearly maxed out) our contents, so there was no need to submit forms on depreciation.

Even though losing Isabella was awful, the fire was actually a blessing in disguise. We were able to update and furnish the house beyond what we would have done. We saved money which was huge because in January 2006 I started my student teaching and only worked 1 job at Williams Sonoma. If anyone has ever worked retail post holidays knows part time is truly part time (8-10 hours per week).

That is the crazy story behind our first house. It impacted us so much as a couple and really started our passion of homes and design. It became a hobby for both of us. A shared love of sorts.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
There are no tags for this post


22 Responses to Rebuilding Wills Casa Uno
  1. Wow! You did a wonderful job rebuilding and I just can’t even imagine the stress and fear that all this would cause to a person and couple.

    Thanks for sharing this – feeling like I’m getting to know you more. (Crazy Internet creeper up in here. I’ll be sending my BFF necklace asap.)

  2. What a fantastic re-build. I love it all. Yes 2005 was another time – another trend, but you can already tell that you have a style and not just doing what everyone else is doing. Love the vaulted ceiling in the living room!!

    • Amber says:

      Aw thanks! I think we just had a discount more than we had style. The vaulted ceiling is like a mini version of the one we have now. I was noticing that last night. Kinda weird how that worked!

  3. This post made me feel a little bit better than the last one lol. Although I’m still really upset about Isabella.

    I didn’t even have a home in 2005 but I did have a PB book. I think this is where everyone’s taste starts because that’s what you see the most until you find blogs

    • Amber says:

      You nailed it. Nick read blogs in 2005, but I didn’t. When we moved to our last house in 2008 is about the time I started reading blogs.

  4. Wow–great job on the renovation! Isn’t there an episode of Friends about that? Phoebe didn’t want to be like everyone else and love Pottery Barn but then she did anyway? We wasted our youth sitting at home watching TV, too :) We used to watch syndicated ER at 7 nearly every night in our first Boston apartment, I remember….ah, good times.

    • Amber says:

      Don’t hate but I never really watched friends, so I can’t comment on that. We have some seriously great memories being snowed in and binge watching various TV shows all night. Those were really good times (especially when you could sleep in the next day which doesn’t happen any more…kids).

  5. Julia@Cuckoo4Design says:

    I’m not judging your decor at all. I think it looked awesome.

    • Amber says:

      Aw thanks! I think buying all the furniture specifically for that space really made it function well. It felt and looked bigger than it was. We could have used some styling, but we are still weird about poking holes in the wall. Seems so permanent. Plus I knew we would move in a couple of years.

  6. Katie says:

    Out of the ashes! There are some real parallels between your resolve and determination with your new house build and your dealings with the insurance folks during this situation. I would have never have had the gumption at 20.

    • Amber says:

      It was definitely a precursor to the build process we just went through. Rebuilding was much smoother than building from scratch though. I was more of a spit fire when I was 20. I was louder but less opinionated. This time I was more opinionated but slightly calmer. Either way probably a huge handful to deal with!

  7. WHOA. I’m catching up on blog reading! You had some cliff hanger posts there.

    I’m sorry you all had to go through this but seems that you learned a ton. (Sorry about the pup. :()

    • Amber says:

      Also craziness happening over here. We did not learn realistic expectations about building which would have been a great lesson after committing to live with my parents while we underwent that process. :)

      Thanks Isabella was our first baby. It was awful losing her.

  8. I’m just catching up Amber. This is such a great story. The post on the fire made me cry. I can’t imagine what you went through… and at 20! I would have been a mess. You both are so strong and it’s amazing what you’ve made of it.

  9. Nichole S. says:

    Great job on the reno! Thank God for PB and WS:)

  10. This house is adorable. I just love you and Nick. Why are you guys so perfect? And, I also feel SO much better about myself knowing that you aren’t a bed-maker either. I wish I was one of those people who made their bed every morning. But that’s just impossible. I’m lucky to make it once every other month. And it’s usually because someone nosey is coming over.

  11. Caroline says:

    I just found your blog and it is great! Thank you for all the detail your provide on building your custom home. We are just starting this process which is how I found your blog. Can you suggest any other bloggers that have built custom homes?

    Your home is gorgeous by the way!

Leave a Reply to Amber Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *